Monthly Archives: February 2016

Digital Divide Needs Mending (…or more glühwein)

Last night, over a glass of hot glühwein (a Swiss thing)  I caught up with a  friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while.  We hadn’t really spoken in any depth about technology before–our main topics of conversation are typically about our young children.  The topic of technology in the classroom came up and for perhaps the first time , I felt the gulf of the digital divide between us. Okay, perhaps I use the term digital divide term loosely and symbolically here, not wikipedia’s more politically loaded, but none the less true:

digital divide is an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT)


Found image inspired a new title. flickr photo by -Nicola- shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Found image inspired a new title.
flickr photo by -Nicola- shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


This friend is an expat like me, my age (younger even), and a teacher, but she seemed very resistant (fearful of, even) to technology integration in teaching (and in life, in general), and went so far as to describe herself as “old-fashioned.”


Call me old-fashioned (technology)

Call me old-fashioned (technology)



Now, I am not a digital native myself, but a willing and interested “non-native”. I wasn’t always this way, but recently, I’ve learned and grown enough to be assuming the role of primary EdTech coach, starting next academic year.  I will be working at a new campus (same school) and coaching teachers holding similar reservations to those of my friend.



Our conversation, almost more of a debate, got me thinking that a huge part of successful coaching must require a certain amount/kind of communication which must first convince someone that it (receiving tech coaching) is a worthwhile thing to do in the first place.

Earlier this week I read a few articles and posts about EdTech coaching.  There was Why Coaches need Coaches, Tech Coaching for Professional Learning, The Ten Commandments of Technology Coaching, all of which offered a certain value, with tips I likely won’t fully appreciate until later.  

But the article Never Too Late: Creating a Climate for Adults to learn new Skills by Rebekah Madrid resonated the most, as the ideas directly linked to (at least part of) my friend’s reservations about technology.  In Madrid’s article, the concept of a Professional Fixed Mindset was introduced to me (which linked to other articles and great resources for the primary classroom!)

Basically, a Fixed Mindset is having a fixed view of oneself and one’s abilities/intelligence (not a lot you can do about it, just accept.)  A Growth Mindset is the belief that one’s abilities are continually growing and changing (but you have to work at it, no way around it.)

According to Madrid’s Never Too Late,

For children, a fixed view of intelligence can lead them to negatively label themselves with statements such as, “I’m not good at math” or “I’m a bad writer.”

Similarly, when professionals struggle with new demands, they may be tempted to use phrases such as “I’m too old for this,” or “I already know what works for me,” or

“I’m just not a computer person.”

I suppose I am a recent graduate of my own Professional (and personal!) Fixed Mindset, which used to be, “I’m not a techie person.” I might have even said these exact (or something very similar) words to my own amazing EdTech coach (yes, the very person whose job I will take over for next year) the day we started working together.

flickr photo by dkuropatwa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by dkuropatwa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license


But, I suppose was willing to try new things and I think a large part of my willingness to learn was due to the approach my coach took–always modeling a Growth Mindset. My coach showed me that she didn’t know everything either, but was willing to try and figure it out–that learning “on the job” was part of the job, and that’s how her skill set grew–not because she was simply born “a techie person.”  

This modelled approach to a Growth Mindset doesn’t always work with all people and it takes time, my coach advises me.  I anticipate a non-techie fixed mindset will be a powerful obstacle to consider for my new role.  I wonder how other tech coaches address this issue: what are coaching strategies (any strategies, really,) that convince the unconvinced, or “un-fix” the fixed-mindset.


I continually reinforce that I expect folks to not always get it right — and I am quick to point out when I personally do not get things right. We have to be willing to take risks. If we are not taking risks and making mistakes, we are not doing our jobs as educators. 

-Dr. Lisa Brady, Schools superintendent in Dobbs Ferry, New York via Madrid’s article.

flickr photo by ransomtech shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by ransomtech shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

By the end of the discussion over hot drinks with my friend the other night, I think I did present a few positive aspects of technology integration in the classroom that she reluctantly accepted, but I don’t think I came close to convincing her that technology in the classroom or even technology in general, is at all a good thing.   We changed to subject to something safer, but the discussion nags me.  If I can’t convince someone who likes and respects me, how will I fare with teachers I barely know?

Getting “ahead” Legally

Living in Switzerland, and being on “ski” break this week I have had a lot of extra time to read and hopefully get “ahead” in the course.  I have been using my time to read a lot of blogs, leave comments on a few, save links and quotes for future blog posts.  My mind is literally spinning with ideas and my current trouble is narrowing down a focus for this week’s post and reflection.  Since I had too many ideas and a limited word count working against me, I am taking Ben’s advice and am splitting up the post I originally started.

Too many ideas, limited word count...

Too many ideas, limited word count…

My first error in thinking I could quickly “get ahead” on posts was assuming I could churn out several reflective posts in a day or two. I can do a lot of “consuming” of information in that time, but the harder part–the sorting, categorising, and consolidating aspect of reflection simply takes time.  I need time to reflect on all the new ideas.  I need time to seek out more information to see what I can find to further support and extend my new line of thinking.



Me, being driven crazy by plug ins, widgets and posting to pages

My second error was assuming the “tinkering and playing around with my blog” would not be the time suck that Jeff promised it would.  I am being driven crazy by seemingly simple things (the digital equivalent of putting a paper in a folder, or in other words, adding my posts to a Page) that I haven’t yet figured out how to do simply–without altering code on a plug in (??? all Greek to me) as some tutorial I googled suggested- and wondering how to tap into my PLN for answers.   Of course, the more time it takes to tinker with the appearance, the more stressed I become that I am running out of time to focus on the actual content.

Now, I realise that in our visual world, the appearance of the blog is a huge part of the package, and just as important as the “content”–the medium is the message kind of thing.

Your message is only as good as your ability to share it.  

So, just as I am finally getting a little more comfortable with public sharing, and hoping that people actually do take a look, at  week 3 with no comments on my blog, I am a little disheartened.  But I have to remember my inner mantra form week 2…Networking is High Maintenance, and you get out what you put in…So, I am going to  step up my game in the karmic commenting department myself.  More on how that turns out later…

Spreading UK love…


And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.–The Beatles


For the love…

The next part of the game plan to make more visually appealing blog posts is to find some good and legal sources for images…Pinterest had a zillion lovely memes for my favourite Beatles lyric, but I am not sure how legally I am allowed to share them.  I am loving the noun project but am otherwise wondering why is it that the nicest images aren’t found in any creative commons search engines?  I am also still figuring out how to best credit images…photos for class is great for being easy to use, but the embedded attribution really takes away from the visual experience.


 Yuck!  →→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→

I am also learning from free technology for teachers about best practices for using images.   I know this week is supposed to be all, “Google+ and Twitter”…but I am actually all, “Sign myself up for free pics!” Woohoo!




Photo Credit: UK love, flickr photo by @Doug88888 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Networking is High Maintenance

@horofraser thanks for joining our discussion so actively and great ideas! #aisrpl #aisrthinktank #thinktankchat

A year ago I might not have known what the above comment meant.  First of all, I would not have understood the symbolism. I suppose I still don’t really understand why # is used, really, but I know to use it to search topics or chats in Twitter.

Secondly, I wouldn’t have believed that the above comment would be describing me–typically quiet during a group discussion–being actively engaged and opinionated.  This comment was tweeted to me during a scheduled twitter chat that I happened upon during my Planning Time earlier this week.

Meant to be working on my COETAIL assignment for week 2, I initially felt guilty for getting easily sidetracked by random Twitter posts on gender.  I am a self-proclaimed feminist, and my husband will claim I tend to gravitate towards bias-supporting articles.  Yet, I was intrigued by the rather neutral title, Gender Gap in Education Cuts Both Ways.

After reading the article and chat questions, but before committing to actually participating, I checked over this week’s topic and assignment.   The Networking topic and loose reflection assignment about our changing thoughts brought me to the realisation that this was exactly the kind of thing we were meant to be doing!  This is the networking in the form of active online participation that is so powerful that I am meant to be reflecting on (and therefore blogging about). 

The public nature and digital representations of these relationships require a fair degree of maintenance.

Although this sentence comes straight from the article Living with New Media and actually refers to teens using social media to publicly manage and curate relationship tidbits, I thought it also applies to the development of an active and engaging online PLN.  I am more recently aware that in order to really learn, it takes more than simply connecting digitally.  Learning digitally (and publicly)  is effort and maintenance.  

So, I have been rather consciously proactive on Twitter activity this week, and I noticed that Andrew Grover, a fellow online 6 Coetailer had posted a visual map about learning communities.

Coetailer Andrew Grover's PLN Tweet

Coetailer Andrew Grover’s PLN Tweet

After hinting to him that I may very well borrow this fabulous idea, and reflecting that it nicely complemented my exploration of what modern day networking is all about,  I set about the task of creating my own mind map of my current Personal Learning Network.

Having earlier tinkered with Popplet  after an In-service session at my school, I decided that would be the tool I would use to map out my network.  Andrew’s original had created additional links, showing his University ties, but I decided I would only use current, or developing links, not severed links to the past…which sadly, is how I think of my university and early teacher training and professional development courses.  Quickly, I came up with this:

  (*Can’t seem to add a proper caption to  my “Work in progress PLN” above without the formatting going all wonky…so this note will have to do.)

Looking at the “finished” product, I realise I could have continued to branch out and be even more specific: listing specific twitter hashtags or google groups. I could have listed blogs I follow or podcasts I listen to, but as these lists are growing and my time this week is not, I decided to save those for later and anticipate revisiting this map in the future, as I am curious to see how it evolves.  

I want someone in my PLN who is going to give me constructive criticism and also accept it….I want someone who wants to learn, listen, and consistently share. I want someone who provokes my thinking. What I don’t want in my PLN is someone who is going to blindly re-tweet something I post.  -Andrew Marcinek

After reading “Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect”  a blog post by Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia, I still feel I am my tweeting early years, and while I post the occasional blind re-tweet (with the full intention of referring to re-tweeted article when the more pressing need or interest arises)  I also feel I have already come a long way in making sure to learn, listen and consistently share, both on and offline.

A Crossroads in Thinking and Understanding

The internet is a mass of communities and networks which bring people and knowledge together.  The internet is of course both a mass of content and connections.  One is interdependent on the other.  The RSA animate video,The Power of Networks by Manual Lima, describes in gorgeous visual detail, many changing ideas and representations of knowledge, Science, and the brain, and uses the Network analogy to describe Life and the Universe itself.  



Tree of Knowledge?

Tree of Knowledge?


The video begins with the idea that the tree is often used a symbol of collective knowledge–people use it to map different areas of knowledge–with each branch of knowledge as separate and defined.  Lima claims people like the tree as a symbol because of its familiarity and simplicity–and its order, hierarchy, etc.  My husband would argue this metaphor for the categorising and organising of knowledge is valid today, as he works in the military and this is certainly how things function in a military setting– top down, systematic, organised.  He claims to learn best from traditional (teacher-at-the-front-of-the-room-lecturing) methods (and I suspect secretly expects all teaching to look like this). However, the creator of the video describes how this “tree of knowledge” analogy is outdated and that we are at turning point in our understanding of how knowledge works (and I would argue, teaching and learning, but more on that in another post).


Knowledge? Military? School Systems?

Knowledge Systems? Military Systems? School Systems? Screenshot from Manual Lima’s, “The Power of Networks”


A Crossroads in Thinking about Learning and Understanding



“The community is the curriculum.”


Lima talks about a paradigm shift and cross roads in our thinking and later uses the rhizome (“… a centred non-hierarchical, non signifying system without a general organising memory or central automation…”) as a new metaphor for how knowledge is organised:  In drawing a map of wikipedia, he demonstrates how it is one the largest “rhizomatic structures” ever created by man.  This idea can be extended to rhizomatic learning,where, “the community is the curriculum,” where learning takes place in a social setting, is constantly evolving based on interests and “subverts traditional notions of instructional design.”


Wikipedia as a rhizomatic system

Wikipedia as a rhizomatic system


“We thought communities trumped content.”


The animation further goes on to show the changing view of the brain as well—previously thought of as compartmentalised, with each area responsible for a specific task.   (This view is similar to how governments, militaries, corporations, or even school departments and subjects are organised.)  Now, a more interconnected understanding of the brain is introduced through brain mapping programs such as “The Blue Brain Project.” This neural interconnectivity is what allows people with injuries to specific parts of the brain to continue to function.  Likewise–If I can’t access certain knowledge myself–I can access my Personal Learning Network for assistance. As Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, predicted early on in the internet game, “We thought communities trumped content.”


Traditional Food Chain

Traditional Food Chain


Lima  reworks  Darwin’s “Tree of Life,” where humans traditionally sit atop the food chain. He demonstrates how now we understand that networks of bacteria connect very disparate species and claims there is no longer tree of life but a web of life and that networks pervade all areas of life.  Like my husband’s comfort in the familiarity of a military chain of command, many people are very comfortable with a food chain analogy of life–with humans at the top, justifying certain practices and long held beliefs–as opposed to an incredibly complex interconnected ecosystem, where everything is interdependent on everything else.


The final mind boggling network comparison in Lima’s animation is the neural network of a mouse (very similar to our own) to the network of the the millennium simulation of the creation of galaxies.  The smallest scale Web of Connections are near identical to those on the largest scale.


We are all connected

We are all connected, Screenshot from Manual Lima’s, “The Power of Networks”


If indeed knowledge, life and the universe itself is a mass network of interconnectedness, the internet, which is of course our attempt to map, organise and understand this knowledge–can only be built and understood in a similar vein.